The Sat. Aug. 26 matchup between 11-time undefeated five-division boxing champion Floyd Mayweather and current UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor is quite a big deal. Pay-per-view sales are expected to shatter the record set during 2015’s much-hyped Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, according to UFC president Dana White. Fans of mixed martial arts and boxing are expected to line up around the block to watch.
However, watching the upcoming “Money Fight” at home costs quite a lot — $89.95 for standard definition PPV and $99.95 for HD. Luckily, there’s another option if you’re not stoked on those PPV prices — head to a bar.
Here’s who is showing Mayweather-McGregor in Charleston:
- The Alley downtown: $30 cover charge
- Buffalo Wild Wings North Charleston: $25 cover charge
- Hooters North Charleston: $30 advance, $50 at the door
- The Break on James Island: $25 cover
- Three Charleston Sports Pub locations (West Ash., Mt. P., S’ville): $25 cover
- The Silver Slipper on Pittsburgh Ave.: $35 for fight (incl. BBQ buffet), $15 after
- HonkyTonk Saloon in Ladson: $25 advance, $35 at door
That’s a fair amount of options, but it’s not like you can just walk into any bar and tune in to the fight. There’s a reason for that — showing PPV fights in a commercial setting requires a license, and costs can be high.
Joe Hand Promotions, a Pennsylvania-based commercial pay-per-view distributer, holds the exclusive rights to distribute Mayweather vs. McGregor. License prices vary based on the fight and are calculated based on the location’s fire occupancy certificate, company president Joe Hand Jr. says.
“A bar and restaurant would call up and if their occupancy certificate says it has 100 seats, it would be times 30 dollars,” Hand Jr. said. “So, it would be $3,000 to license it.”
Mayweather vs. McGregor’s $30-per-person price tag is higher than the company’s normal UFC license rates, according to Hand Jr. All UFC licenses include the fight, promotional materials, and a listing in the official venue search.
Due to the cost of licenses, screening the fight illegally has some appeal — but bars looking to sidestep the process are flirting with disaster, as distribution companies take a hard-line approach to PPV piracy. For every event Joe Hand Promotions distributes, the company hires investigators across the United States tasked with spotting piracy. If caught, venues face lawsuits under the Federal Communications Act, which allows for up to $100,000 in statutory damages plus legal fees.
Joe Hand Promotions has filed thousands of lawsuits for UFC piracy over the past 10 years, including in South Carolina. Those suits usually settle or receive default judgment in favor of the distributor, as those private investigators often have video evidence of piracy.
In a March 2016 decision, Debbie’s Silver Dollar of Gaffney, S.C. was found guilty of illegally screening UFC 167: St-Pierre vs. Hendricks on November 16, 2013. They were ordered to pay a total of $22,515.75 in damages and legal fees to Joe Hand Promotions.
The costs of illegally screening fights can be devastating to small businesses, so paying for a license is the way to go. However, the high costs of showing popular UFC fights limits the number of bars willing to pay up, according to Alley owner David Crowley.
Crowley says the Alley was one of only a handful of locations to screen the highly-anticipated 2015 fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. That fight also featured higher-than-normal PPV costs and licensing rates. This year’s Mayweather vs. McGregor looks to repeat that trend.
“It was the same thing as last time,” Crowley said. “I’m surprised that more people aren’t doing it, but at the end of the day I’m also glad.”
The Alley has a maximum fire code capacity of 452. Crowley wouldn’t comment on how much he paid to license the fight, but at the Joe Hand Promotions’ $30-a-person rate, they would have paid around $13,560 to license the fight. Even though the bar doesn’t typically show UFC fights, Alley owner David Crowley said the cost is worth it. Simply put, the fight is popular.
“It’s my duty to provide the best sports bar experience in things that are looked at in the sports world as the biggest event,” Crowley said. “We try to hold every big event and promote it as best we can.”
To that end, the Alley’s $30 cover gets you access to two 160-inch TVs, discount bowling, and special drinks — $4 Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire whiskey, $4 Tullamore Dew whisky, and $6 Mayweather and McGregor bombs. Entry starts at 9 p.m., and the kitchen stays open until 1 a.m. The bar will also have Ring Girls announcing the rounds with ring cards.
“We try to create a fight-like atmosphere,” Crowley said. “Like you’re in a Vegas sports bar without the gambling.”